Leveled whole communities is fearsome testament to the highly destructive force of hurricanes, of which there have been two natural ones that figure prominently in the national psyche of late: Harvey and Irma. Late summer’s Hurricane Harvey approached the kind of damage that Katrina wrought in killing and injuring people and communities from Florida to Texas. Katrina’s greatest wrath was reserved for Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. That hurricane turned out to be one of the deadliest storms in our nation’s history. In its path were people, towns, and cities which have yet to fully recover twelve years later.
There is another hurricane which threatens the very fabric of our communities and lives, however, that is an unnatural one. Perhaps it is unfair to mention Donald Trump in connection with the deadly force of hurricanes to the people who have lost their lives and everything they owned to a weather event. Perhaps it is unfair to hurricanes to compare Donald Trump to increasingly destructive, Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, but for millions of hurting Americans, the metaphor may feel like an apt one.
A little history as to why hurricanes received human names goes directly to our discussion of Trump’s destructive impact as a “leader” of the free world. According to expert Chris Landsea (and what a great and fortuitous name for someone studying weather systems over land and sea), of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), hurricane naming has a direct link to unpleasant politics and politicians. Landsea writes, “by properly naming a hurricane, the weatherman could publicly describe a politician (who perhaps was not too generous with weather-bureau appropriations) as ‘causing great distress’ or ‘wandering aimlessly about the Pacific,'” according to Chrissy Warrilow on The Weather Channel’s “Hurricane News.” In other words, weather people early on chose the names of disliked politicians for naming disastrous weather events.
This bit of anecdotal history seems particularly appropriate when weighing the consequences and destruction left behind by the Electoral College elevation of Trump to the presidency of the United States. In the relatively short span of time since Trump’s ascension to the White House, he has managed or bungled his way to strip dreamers of their opportunities in America by cancelling DACA, lying about everything from his inaugural crowd size to promises to protect those same dreamers he has now cast adrift with little or no forethought or ounce of humanity.
Since taking office, Trump has also managed to sweep away civility, political and societal norms, accompanied by a meteorological rise in profanity and gutter talk. Like an ill-fated bag of wind, Trump has continually tried to puff himself up with more lies and absurdities, bragging about everything from the size of his hands while passing out food—on his second visit to Texas after Harvey struck—to his deal-making in losing to Democrats on debt-ceiling negotiations. He has demeaned and lied about his political opponents and past presidents, treating the office like his personal soap box from which he is selling snake oil to ignorant masses. He has also used his office for private family gain in a way no other president in history has done. Even at this writing, the tangle of his business ties to Russian oligarchs, and perhaps Putin, as well as unsavory criminals, is still being brought to light.
Dysfunction in his White House staff and appointments is second to none in our history, with aides and advisors coming and going in a revolving door of absurdity and ghastliness. Like a hurricane, Trump has left little evidence of building, only tearing down, with all of his Cabinet appointments bent on undermining or outright destroying the departments they are supposed to serve. Each new Trump appointment feels akin to a hurricane force stick in the eye. Trump’s attacks on our most sacred institutions, that roughly hold our democracy together, have been most pronounced. His denigration of judges, the courts, the entire judicial system in the checks and balances of our government, began his onslaught. He struck the courts after his Muslim ban was rightfully and legally found unconstitutional. Trump has also attacked the legislative branch, members of his own party, even the Senate and House Majority leaders. He has attacked our entire Intelligence service, its agencies and officers. Trump plays fast and loose with his curses, even torrentially raining them down on his own picks for Cabinet posts, to which even Jeff Sessions may attest.
Attacking service men and women who have served their country loyally and faithfully, Trump dropped his Transgender ban like a load of bricks from the sky, without consulting even his own generals. He launched political missiles at a Boy Scout jamboree, lobbied for denying health care to millions of Americans, reversed himself on LGBT rights and protections.
Trump also found a way to blow in on the side of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, furthering the divide between Americans and strengthening the country’s worst instincts. The Commander-in-Chief seems to delight in the kind of hatred and anger that has resulted, initially forgetting even to address the loss of a life of a protester against a neo-Nazi march.
Making outrageous and dangerous claims about attacking other countries, Trump seems to have no moral nor ethical compass to guide his whirling destructive force that has become his administration. We will, as Americans, someday have to pick ourselves up, and clean up after this mess, begin building once again.
Nancy Avery Dafoe